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Hartnett: Is Bobby Parnell Ready To Fill K-Rod’s Shoes As Mets’ Closer?

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Bobby Parnell (credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Bobby Parnell (credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

Bobby Parnell is likely to assume the closer’s role for the New York Mets after the club dealt Francisco Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers early Wednesday morning.  Jason Isringhausen who was a famed closer for eight major league seasons is probable to follow K-Rod out of Flushing before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline.  Until Isringhausen is dealt, he will continue to serve as the Mets’ setup man and guide Parnell as his mentor.

The second half of the season will be an audition for Parnell to prove that he can be a long-term solution as Mets’ fireman.  Parnell has been lighting up the radar gun this season and earlier this month hit 103 MPH while pitching at Comerica Park.  He might have the velocity of an intimidating closer but is also largely unproven in the role.  Parnell has only registered one career save and blown six save opportunities since debuting in 2008.

It’s a very small sample size to go by as Parnell’s body of work this season should be more closely scrutinized.  Parnell has lowered his WHIP (1.34) and batting average against (.250) in 2011 and improved his confidence on the mound.  He’s developed the steely gaze that closers exhibit and many Met fans believe he may flourish as their 9th inning man.

Personally, I don’t think the bar should be set too high for Parnell who will be learning on the fly.  Anyone expecting him to be as dominant as Rodriguez who converted 23 out of 26 save opportunities is asking for too much right away.  I can see him having a few hiccups here and there while adjusting to the demands and pressure of his new role but these are the growing pains that even the best converted relievers go through.

Parnell needs to be less reliant upon his velocity and become a bit craftier to thrive as a big league closer.  He must figure out how to deceive batters as currently he gets hit far too often to be a reliable fireman.  Pitching coach Dan Warthen has done a very good job with the Mets’ pitching staff as a whole and has gotten Parnell to become more consistent with his velocity.  It is now Warthen’s task to guide Parnell toward mastering both the subtlety and fearless mentality required to be a top-tier closer.

Time will tell but Met fans will be eagerly studying Parnell in the second half and hoping that he can be an in-house solution going forward.  If the Mets can avoid spending money on a free agent closer, it would be helpful toward keeping Jose Reyes at Citi Field.  Ridding of K-Rod and his $17.5M option freed up a good amount of cash.  The club will continue to try to shed payroll in an attempt to keep their star asset and appease their vocal fan base that are desperate to see Reyes remain in Flushing.

Met fans, how successful do you believe Parnell will be as closer?  Is he ready to step in right away or should the Mets be cautious and ease him into the role?  Sound off below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.

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